Monthly Archives: May 2010

Food & drink Namsan-dong restaurants tips for tourists

Restaurant Review #11: Kalguksu (칼국수) on Mt. Namsan

Chilbulam Restaurant, Mt. Namsan, Gyeongju

Chilbulam Restaurant, Mt. Namsan, Gyeongju

Along with temples, ancient Buddhas, and funny-shaped boulders, Mt. Namsan (남산) has also been blessed with a fair number of kalguksu (칼국수) restaurants. If you’ve not tried it before, Kalguksu is a hot and hearty noodle soup; perfect after a hike. Kalguksu literally means “knife noodles” as the noodles are cut by hand and quite thick. Kalguksu has a mild savory flavor, but it comes with a side jar of soy sauce with green onions and chilies which you add to your liking (I’d suggest starting with just a dolop or two to see how you like it). It’s served without meat, so it’s vegetarian friendly (though I can’t vouch for the broth). read more »

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Buddhist culture Food & drink guest writers history Korean culture

The Korean Way of Tea (다례) Part 1: The History

By Don Baumhart

Tea Ceremony for the Buddha, Dongguk University, Gyeongju

Tea Ceremony for the Buddha, Dongguk University, Gyeongju

If you want a glimpse into the soul of traditional Korean culture, you should try to experience grace and charm of the Korean tea ceremony. Like its Japanese counterpart, the Korean tea ceremony is meditation in motion. Each slow and mindful movement is carefully choreographed from start to finish. As in meditation, the purpose of the tea ceremony is to center each person in the present moment, to create a sense of purity, respect, tranquility, and harmony. read more »

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Gyeongju Korean culture Shamanism Stories, legends & people Temples & shrines

Dang-namu (당나무): Sacred Trees of the Village

Dang Namu of Sanggu-ri, Gyeongju

Dang Namu of Sanggu-ri, Gyeongju

If you’ve spent any time touring the Korean countryside, you might have noticed a single gnarly old tree standing nearby a farm village here or there. These trees are actually called Dang-namu (당나무) and according to Korean folk religion (a form of Korean Shamanism) they are actually one of the village’s Dong-shin (동신), or guardian spirits. Often these ancient trees have stone alters at their base or a plaque, and occasionally you’ll see them in pairs, representing male and female deities. read more »

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Buddhist culture Festivals Gyeongju holidays

Dongguk University Lantern Lighting: 2010 Highlights

Samulnori Dancers, Dongguk University Gyeongju

Samulnori Dancers, Dongguk University Gyeongju

I mentioned a few weeks ago Dongguk University held it’s lantern-lighting ceremony in honor of Buddha’s Birthday on April 29th.  As it turned out, the 29th was also declared a National Day or Mourning in honor of the 46 sailors who died in the sinking of the “Cheonan” on March 26th. Unfortunately this meant all celebrations had to be canceled or seriously toned down out of respect for the solemnity of the occasion.   The ceremony still went on, but without the usual festive barrage of balloons, lanterns and fireworks. read more »

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Buddhist culture Gyeongju Sites to see Temples & shrines

Pear Flowers (배 꽃) & Bokwonsa Temple (복원사)

Pear Flowers of Nae Tae Village, Gyeongju

Pear Flowers of Nae Tae Village, Gyeongju

The other Sunday the sun was finally shining after a solid week of rain.  My wife and I hopped in the car and took off to explore the countryside determined to enjoy some of the hard-earned Spring weather.   As luck would have it, we drifted back some country roads going west out of town, and found ourselves in a remote farming valley in the shadow of Mt. Eorimsan (어림산). read more »

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Buddhist culture Bulguk-dong Gyeongju holidays Statues & carvings Temples & shrines tips for tourists

Special Events for Buddha’s Birthday (석가탄신일): Friday, May 21st

Coming up in about a week and a half is my absolute favorite holiday in Korea: Seokga Tanshinil (석가탄신일), or Buddha’s Birthday.   Every temple in Korea celebrates Buddha’s Birthday one way or another.  Most hang lanterns, have special ceremonies and serve a special group lunch or dinner for parishioners.  A few of the larger or more historically important temples will host special musical performances or hold a lantern parade in the evening, just after sun down.

This year, Seokga Tanshinil falls on Friday, May 21st.  In Gyeongju, there are 3 particularly special events that happen for Buddha’s Birthday that shouldn’t be missed.  If you’ve got a car, or you’re adventurous with public transit, you could easily hit all 3: read more »

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Buddhist culture Gyeongju history Statues & carvings tips for tourists Top 10

Top 10 Ancient Stone Buddhas (석불) of Gyeongju: Part 2 of 2

Buddha Boulder of Tapgol Valley, Mt. Namsan Gyeongju

Buddha Boulder of Tapgol Valley, Mt. Namsan Gyeongju

Continued from Part 1:

5.  The Buddha Boulder (부처바위) of Tapgol Valley (탑골): Tucked behind the quaint beauty of Oknyeongam Hermitage (옥룡암) in Tapgol (pagoda) Valley is a large rock outcropping covered with Buddhist carvings.  There are dozens of cryptic images including meditating Buddhas, flying Devas, pagodas, and even winged lions!  The quiet magic of Oknyeongam Hermitage and the mystery of Buddha Boulder make Pagoda Valley one of my favorite spots on Namsan.

read more »

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Buddhist culture Gyeongju history Seonggeon-dong Temples & shrines

Seogyeongsa (서경사) Japanese Zen Temple

Seogyeongsa Japanese Zen Temple, Gyeongju

Seogyeongsa Japanese Zen Temple, Gyeongju

The other week my wife and I were walking through an older neighborhood of Gyeongju on our way downtown to grab a burger at McDonalds (Yeah, yeah. I know, but she’s pregnant.  I’m not going to argue.)  About a block from the courthouse, we turned the corner and stumbled on something we’d not seen since our last trip to Kyoto:  the sweeping rooftop of a Japanese Buddhist temple. read more »

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